Pickled Herring & Breakfast For Dinner

No, I am not making this up. This is why one step at a time I am learning to love my church.

Last night was our annual Family Advent Night – a fun night of gathering together to do a family craft and eat breakfast for dinner. My kids have learned to love having breakfast for dinner. Seriously, who wouldn’t love being offered the choice of plain or CHOCOLATE CHIP pancakes for dinner?

So having breakfast for dinner was one of those cross-cultural experiences that happened over time – trips to IHOP or Denny’s late at night/early in the morning after some dancing at Medusa’s during my high school years, trips to Omega late at night/early in the morning after studying or formal in college. But that wasn’t really eating breakfast for dinner. It was having second breakfast. But, it was a primer for this Korean-American girl who would eat rice and kimchi jigae for breakfast, lunch and dinner if she could.

In addition to breakfast for dinner was a special delivery for M – his jar of pickled herring that I’m going to guess he bought at our church’s summer missions silent auction. M sat down and with the same look on his face that I have when I’m sitting down to a meal I know I am going to enjoy, he opened his jar of herring. For background sake, I attend an Evangelical Covenant Church – a denomination with deep Swedish roots. No, not “Hey, I like Ikea” Swedish (I love those meatballs) but Swedish. And maybe, for some at my  church, so much so that they don’t know how Sweden and its values and traditions have been integrated into church and life until someone like me shows up and wonders what the deal is with pickled herring and hymns sung in Swedish and Advent candles in blue (is that Swedish?) and coffee at night and respectfully restrained worship.

Back to the herring.

Truth be told, I’ve heard of pickled herring but until last night I had never actually seen it. And while I’ve known folks who have offered me arroz con pollo, pan tres leches, collard greens, lumpia, pho and chicken feet there are other foods, like pickled herring, I’ve never had the opportunity to see or taste.

Which is why I am so grateful that M offered me a taste of his pickled herring because food, and the food of my people and of your people, is such a part of we are, and how we live, etc. Food can tell the stories of why our ancestors ate what we eat, values, land, traditions. It doesn’t define us, but food certainly is a part of who we are. Even authors of the Bible shared stories of  and with manna, milk and honey, unleavened bread and water and wine.

So I tried the herring. Not bad. Personally I think it would have gone great with some rice and kimchi (pickled spicy cabbage), but that’s just me. What I loved is that we broke bread (pancakes, sausage, fruit and pickled herring) and shared a sort of communion in a most unconventional way but hours later is still leaving my soul deeply connected to God and the beauty, diversity and richness of His creation and His people.




  1. Jody Fernando December 6, 2010

    ha!!! this is funny. I’m Swedish and have never been able to stomach the pickled herring. My husband is Asian and skill scoffs at breakfast for dinner – no matter how hard I try 🙂 His grandmother used to make waffles and curry which he says has scarred him for life…

  2. Lisa December 6, 2010

    Great entry, Kathy.

    On the pickled herring, I first encountered it while living with a culturally Jewish roommate. I was quite horrified when I saw the pickle juice spill all over our couch while she ate it. Hehe.

  3. Jessica December 6, 2010

    my dad is from a dutch family and loves the stuff. personally it grosses me out.

  4. andybilhorn December 7, 2010

    yes! herring! welkommen hem!

    just an fyi on your scandanavian lore…the swedes may claim it, but the icelanders do herring better than the rest…and that comes from one who is both swedish and icelandic.

    i’m the only one in my generation who maintains it, and it’s how my father and i bond together on christmas eve…laughing and eating herring and “grossing out” the rest of the family.

    if you want to try the next swedish dish, try oyster stew…so wrong, but so right…http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/oyster-stew/Detail.aspx

    and you’re intuition is right, it does go very well with kimchi. I’ve done it once and called it my “kor-swed-ean” supper. 🙂

    and now that i think about it, kimchi with oyster stew sounds wonderful…

  5. AM Howe December 22, 2010

    Ah,… the pickled herring- and I thought I was the last one left outside of my family to know what this stuff is. I always wondered who else bought it! Hope you enjoy it for Christmas Eve- that’s when I always have it!


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